It’s Happening Over at Patreon

Things have been very quiet here for multiple reasons, but they will likely remain quiet for one reason: Patreon.

Most of my work will be done through Patreon, so while some announcements might come here, and I will post some of the content here, Patreon will remain my primary interface. Should I decide to shut down my Patreon – it’s motivating me to actually get work done, so that’s unlikely, even if it doesn’t rise above beer money – my primary focus will return to this website, but until then, please go follow me at my Patreon page.

Even if you don’t act as a patron, you can follow the feed and get most of the articles released, though a few days after they are available for paying patrons.

I hope I’ll see you there.

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It Came From The Sea! Crunching the Numbers

This post was original presented at my Patreon on 6 Aug 2019.

I’ve embarked on writing for Saga of the Sea Peoples, (which you can follow at my Patreon) and in doing so, I’ve started to consider the costs that would be associated with bringing it to actual fruition, meaning distributing it beyond Patreon. The costs for doing a print product – something more than 100 pages – are pretty prohibitive. A ballpark estimate puts the Kickstarter goal at about US $11,500. My biggest success for Kickstarter was Centurion: Legionaries of Rome which brought in around $5,900 USD. Nefertiti Overdrive only brought in about $4,900 CAD, which was about $3,800 USD.

It’s possible to produce a 125 page book without editing or certain sections I’d like to include – such as considering migration and integration in the context of the Sea People – and using stock art. That goal would be about $3,000 USD so a Kickstarter goal of $4,450 CAD . . . or, to be more careful, $5,000 CAD.

A PDF-only product, substantially shorter, and using stock art, would have a goal of $4,500 CAD. That means I would need 350 backers at $13.50 CAD (around $10 USD) a pop to hit that target. Were I to do the base minimum – editing, consultation, extra sections, and more art as stretch goals – I could set the goal at $2,000 USD, meaning I would need about 150 backers.

Centurion only had 180 backers, Nefertiti Overdrive had 302 backers, and Sword’s Edge had 144 backers. So far, it looks on the edge of do-able, but with definite failure potential. Failure is fine – it means the market isn’t interested and if I want to pursue it, it would be on my own dime with minimal expectation for sales.

One thing I learned from the Centurion vs. Nefertiti Overdrive Kickstarters was the value of high ticket pledge levels. Something like creating one of the iconic characters for the game or being a model for a piece of art can support a pretty heft price tag, but does it help?. For the art, I would have to actually increase the goal of the Kickstarter to compensate for the added cost – three openings for modelling for art would increase the cost by almost $600 CAD while bringing in a maximum of $750. That’s about eight extra backers, so there is some potential but it’s not significant.

In the end, I’m going to push forward with the writing, and can promise you the rules portion. There’ll be some historical discussion thrown in there, and I’m continuing to research the era and the Sea Peoples, as it has turned out to be fascinating, but I won’t have a “history” section per se unless I’m able to finance this some other way. Kickstarter looks like a possibility, but it needs more analysis and consideration.

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Abyss of the Crimson Caves, a Fifth Edition Adventure

Sword’s Edge Publishing has released its second of three Fifth Edition adventures, this a sequel to Cult of the Abyss.

A minor cult following an obscure myth is seeking artifacts and using ensorcelled children to do their digging. The Crimson Caves hide more than simply this, as the cult is building an army for the day when their deity is released. It’s up to a band of adventurers to free the children and foil the cult in this dungeon crawl for Fifth Edition.

Abyss of the Crimson Caves is an adventure for 3-5 player characters of levels 5-7, though it best played with 4 PCs of level 6.

The format of this adventure has the monsters listed without further information in the room description, with the monster’s information blocks at the back of the PDF in the order in which they appear. A separate file is included with the monsters information provided in the order in which they appear so that it can be referenced while playing.

This adventure and the earlier Cult of the Abyss is already in the hands of my Patreon backers, as is the following one. If you like the kinds of products SEP releases, you might want to back the Patreon to get them first and usually cheaper.

Abyss of the Crimson Caves is available now at Drive Thru RPG.

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Sales for First Quarter 2019

Here we are, well into 2019, and I’m just getting the first selection of sales data posted. The first quarter of 2019 was pretty standard. I have been slower to set up for sale items developed for Patreon, but most of them will get to sales venues. Numbers and regular releases are important for sales, and that was one of the reasons I set up my Patreon, to motivate me to get stuff into a sell-able format. So far, that’s worked relatively well.

So here we go – nothing too special and not really any messages in the numbers other than “this is what a pretty normal quarter looks like for SEP.”

Sales for First Quarter 2019 (Jan to Mar)
All sales venues

Albenistan
Albenistan: Election Day, 2
Khorforjan Gambit, 2
Qalashar Device, 2
Raid On Ashkashem, 2

Arcane Kingdoms
For Simple Coin, 2

Covert Forces
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section, 1
Covert Forces Redux, 1
In Her Majesty’s Service, 1

Other
Centurion, 3
HeadCrushers, 2
Hispania Ulterior Motive: A Centurion Adventure, 1
Judged: A Nefertiti Overdrive Adventure,
Nefertiti Overdrive, 9
Starship Commandos, 1
The Wall, 5

Sword’s Edge Systems
Crossing the Millers: A Sword Noir Adventure, 1
Face ‘Splosion: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 1
For A Few Swords More: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 2
HardCASE: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 2
Kheufer Scrolls: A Sword Noir Adventure, 1
Kiss My Axe, 2
Lawless Heaven: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 1
Six Stood Alone: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 1
Sword Noir, 11
Sword’s Edge, 4

Total Sales to Date
Albenistan
Albenistan: Election Day (Modern Dispatch 113), 50
Khorforjan Gambit, 132
Qalashar Device, 146
Raid On Ashkashem, 192

Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms, 78
For Simple Coin, 13
Gifts of the Elder Gods, 46

Covert Forces
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section, 121
Covert Forces, 100
Covert Forces Redux, 196
In Her Majesty’s Service, 167

Other
The Boltcutter, 5
Centurion, 238
Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit, 47
Daughter of the Sun: A Nefertiti Overdrive Adventure, 4
HeadCrushers, 7
Hispania Ulterior Motive: A Centurion Adventure, 5
Judged: A Nefertiti Overdrive Adventure, 19
Line Zero, 41
Nefertiti Overdrive, 178
Starship Commandos, 66
The Wall, 29

Sword’s Edge System
Crossing the Millers: A Sword Noir Adventure, 178
Face ‘Splosion: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 22
For A Few Swords More: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 20
HardCASE: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 14
Kheufer Scrolls: A Sword Noir Adventure, 224
Kiss My Axe, 275
Lawless Heaven: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 20
Six Stood Alone: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 1
Suffer the Witch, 104
Sword Noir, 778
Sword’s Edge, 55

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Cult of the Abyss, a Fifth Edition Adventure

Sword’s Edge Publishing has released its first Fifth Edition adventure: Cult of the Abyss

Young Prince Erd has been kidnapped along with some other children from a village. An observant hunter told the Royal Guard of seeing a handful of armed men leading a small group of children into the Red Valley. The characters are sent to retrieve the prince and rescue the children. Easier said than done as the characters find themselves facing off against a strange cult in this dungeon crawl for Fifth Edition.

Cult of the Abyss is an adventure for 3-5 player characters of levels 5-7, though it best played with 4 PCs of level 6.

The format of this adventure has the monsters listed without further information in the room description, with the monsters’ information blocks at the back of the PDF in the order in which they appear. A separate file is included with the monsters information provided in the order in which they appear so that it can be referenced while playing.

This adventure is already in the hands of my Patreon backers, as are its two sequels. Those sequels will likely get a release in the following months, but if you like the kinds of products SEP releases, you might want to back the Patreon to get them first and usually cheaper.

Cult of the Abyss is available now at Drive Thru RPG.

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Who Watches . . . Civil Disobedience and the Wall

This post was first presented on 23 Jun 2019 at Patreon.

The Wall is a game about being part of an occupying force and the ethical challenges the characters will face in trying to maintain their humanity – or at least their moral core. In the game, the occupying forces are explicitly stated to be from another state – the occupying power. Watching the reporting on the widespread protests in Hong Kong, it provided another example of how the “occupiers” – or at least the occupying force – do not always originate in a distant land. For the citizens of Hong Kong, they faced a group employing force against them in the interest of the ruling elite who were – ostensibly – their own government. 

This is not so unusual in history, nor is it restricted to authoritarian regimes or – in the case of Hong Kong – local representatives of an authoritarian regime. Canada has had its own moments, and not so long ago. Both the FLQ crisis and the Oka crisis saw employers of force – and in both cases, the Canadian Forces, Canada’s military – acting against Canadians in the interests of “the state.” Note: this is not to say that the state was wrong in employing these measures nor is the intent to conflate the FLQ and the Mohawk Warriors, but these were cases of military forces acting as security forces within the borders of Canada.

Many of the difficulties the kind of occupying force in the Wall would face remain for these state assets, especially since in an open and democratic society which values the rule of law, the employment of force against one’s own citizens should be an extreme last resort. However, in all of the cases I’ve mentioned – the Hong Kong extradition bill protests, the FLQ crisis, and the Oka crisis, the occupying force came/comes from a community outside of the target community or protects an outside community’s interest. In Hong Kong, the police were really acting in the interests of the Communist Party of China, which is the ultimate sovereign whom the Government of Hong Kong must propitiate. In Canada, the government and parliament’s interests are in the continued federation of the provinces and territories to the benefit of the mainly anglophone, white population. This put it at odds with the FLQ and the Mohawk Warriors, which were pursuing what they likely perceived as the interests of a minority, marginal, and/or victimized group. 

The Hong Kong protests from Business Insider

The Wall is about the tensions between the characters and the rest of the occupying force, the elites, and the dispossessed. In these cases, the elites would actually be part of the polity directing the characters and the occupying force. In the game, that polity – a distant dictator or empire – does not have a mechanical function, so it’s loss changes only the narrative and not the mechanical structure of the game. In a game which replicated an internal crisis, the elites would be the portion of the society and/or population that is in the majority or at least that part of the population that is not marginalized or victimized. This part of the population supports, accepts, or at least does not protest the government’s actions against the marginalized group – the the protestors in Hong Kong or the indigenous residents of Kanesatake and other communities who side with the Mohawk Warriors. . 

The tensions with the rest of the occupiers could narratively be described as perhaps different organizations – the PCs are police or security forces while the rest of the occupying force is military, or perhaps the reverse of that. It could even just be the tension between a team that is questioning the tactics or the entire premise of their deployment against fellow citizens and the rest of their peers, who accept and perhaps even relish in the action.

Finally, the marginalized group is the dispossessed. They have the same mechanical function, however the dispossessed may not seem removed from the general population in situations like the Hong Kong protests. Bloomberg (the news service) reported 2 million people involved in the protests on 16 June 2019. The population of Hong Kong is around 7.7 million, so that’s a pretty hefty percentage of the adult population confronting the government and police.

Protesters march at night during a rally in Hong Kong: Kyle Lam/Bloomberg

They had the numbers, but their stand against their government and confrontation with state security forces makes them the dispossessed- for the Wall.

Playing in these kinds of games might not be for everyone. This is not to say that exploring modern political protests through the Wall is political while other games aren’t – every inclusion and exclusion in the narrative of a game shapes its politics. I would expect it is plain that the Hong Kong protests are immediate in a way that the Spanish occupation of the Low Countries simply isn’t.

As always, be considerate of each other, and try to figure out a way for everyone to get the most of the game without anyone being hurt or made uncomfortable in an unwelcome manner.

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It Came From The Sea! . . . or maybe the pool

This article was first posted to Patreon on 18 May 2019

Today was the first day this year that I skimmed the pool.

Bear with me!

Skimming allows me to zone out, to kind of enter a Zen space where my thoughts are divorced from my actions. The body does what it needs to do while the mind is free to wander. So it wandered to Egyptian history.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the 25th Dynasty in order to write a history supplement for Nefertiti Overdrive, and while reading about the transition from the New Kingdom to the Third Intermediate Period, I came across mentions of the Sea Peoples, a kind of boogeyman often blamed for the Late Bronze Age collapse, which seemed to affect most of the Mediterranean civilizations. The Sea Peoples were apparently a kind of maritime nomadic group that swept in, messed things up, and then moved on until Rameses III of Egypt put them in their place – that place being the Levant. This allegedly led to the creation of the Philistines, who – according to one theory – were displaced Mycenaean Greeks.

Fascinating stuff, you say. So what?

Because I think the saga of the Sea Peoples would make a great game. Here’s why:

Often the Sea Peoples – and “barbarians” in general – are depicted as the villains. Here’s a nice orderly polity, imposing law and order on a specific region, and in come these terrible barbarians who create chaos and suffering. Except those polities were run by a very small elite for their own benefit. Often – especially with Rome – the fight was about stopping immigration. The Goths just wanted to some land to farm, but they weren’t obsequious enough with the Romans. The Gauls earlier had been pretty much minding their own business, ruling polities that had already imposed order on a wide area, but they weren’t serving Rome’s – or at least Julius Caesar’s – interests. Heck, it was a “Celtic menace” that was a factor leading to the empowerment of Marius and therefore Sulla, who led pretty much directly to the fall of the Republic. Those Celts weren’t even really interested in in the Italian Peninsula, though they did attack Roman town and forts in what might be called Celtic territory.

And there are parallels today, as elite interests attempt to portray those seeking a better life inside the elite’s polity as criminals and barbarians. The elite see a threat to the status quo as a threat to their privileges and power, and so change is bad.

I think history has been very clear that change is good.

So let’s have a game with the Sea Peoples as the good guys. Yes, they are forces of chaos and yes they threaten the status quo. But that status quo protect a rapacious elite. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Sea Peoples and other barbarians generally do not come as liberators. Most of them wanted to challenge the status quo, if only to find a place within it. But changing the status quo can be seen as good, protecting a society against atrophy.

All this to say that as this game evolves, it’ll be doing so in this Patreon. I will share here my notes, my thoughts, my intents, and my design. This will not be something for which patrons will pay, but the posts will only be open to patrons.

It will all start with design goals, and maybe even a philosophy.

Wish me luck.

Note: the development of Sagas of the Sea Peoples will be conducted at my Patreon, so if you are interested, look for it there.

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Six Stood Alone

One village fears the return of a group of border reivers. They have very little to offer, but the heroes take them up on their offer. Learning about the enemies they will face, do the heroes risk their lives for a pittance? What drives them? Why would they do so? Set in the border area of Scotland and England in the mid sixteenth century, this adventure is inspired by the Seven Samurai and the Magnificent Seven. It is for heroic characters, be they anti-heroes or shining paragons.

“Six Stood Alone” is a historical adventure for Sword’s Edge. It includes a new addition to the rules for Scene Elements, and Retainers and Allies. It includes six pre-generated characters.

This adventure was developed as part of a Patreon campaign. If you would like to see more adventures like this, please support the author at Patreon.

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Sales for Fourth Quarter 2018

And so we wrap up another year. This year was different in that I was using Patreon as a kind of goad to keep me producing. Now, it did not work as planned due to my being involved in a training program at the beginning of the year, then working on finishing my master of arts program during the rest of the year, but it did get me to produce more than I would have alternatively, and some of that made its way out as products for sale.

Below is the numbers for the third quarter – which looking back, I realize I never posted – the numbers for the last quarter, and then the number for 2018 as a whole compared to numbers form 2017, followed by the grand totals. Just a bunch of data that might be of some use to someone, somewhere.

Enjoy!

Sales for Third Quarter 2018 (Jul to Sep)
All sales venues

Albenistan
Raid On Ashkashem, 1

Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms, 1

Covert Forces
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section, 2
Covert Forces Redux, 2

Other
Centurion, 3
Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit, 1
Daughter of the Sun: A Nefertiti Overdrive Adventure, 3
Judged: A Nefertiti Overdrive Adventure, 2
Nefertiti Overdrive, 11
Starship Commandos, 2
The Wall, 1

Sword’s Edge Systems
Crossing the Millers, 4
HardCASE: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 2
Kheufer Scrolls, 4
Kiss My Axe, 10
Suffer the Witch, 2
Sword Noir, 8

Sales for Fourth Quarter 2018 (Oct to Dec)
All sales venues

Albenistan
Khorforjan Gambit, 1
Qalashar Device, 1
Raid On Ashkashem, 1

Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms, 1
For Simple Coin, 2
Gifts of the Elder Gods, 1

Other
Centurion, 5
Centurion: Hispania Ulterior Motive, 2
Daughter of the Sun: A Nefertiti Overdrive Adventure, 1
HeadCrushers, 5
Judged: A Nefertiti Overdrive Adventure, 1
Nefertiti Overdrive, 1
Starship Commandos, 2
The Wall, 3

Sword’s Edge Systems
Crossing the Millers, 4
Kheufer Scrolls, 4
Kiss My Axe, 1
Suffer the Witch, 1
Sword’s Edge, 4
Sword Noir, 8

Sales for 2018 (with 2017 in parantheses)
All sales venues. If there are no numbers for 2017, the product did not exist or made no sales.

Albenistan
Albenistan: Election Day, 1 (5)
Khorforjan Gambit, 3 (5)
Qalashar Device, 4 (5)
Raid On Ashkashem, 5 (6)

Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms, 3 (7)
For Simple Coin, 3 (2)
Gifts of the Elder Gods, 3 (3)

Covert Forces
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section, 5 (4)
Covert Forces Redux, 6 (5)
In Her Majesty’s Service, 1 (6)

Other
Centurion, 18 (20)
Centurion: Hispania Ulterior Motive, 4
Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit, 1 (3)
Daughter of the Sun: A Nefertiti Overdrive Adventure, 4
HeadCrushers, 5
Judged: A Nefertiti Overdrive Adventure, 19
Line Zero, 2 (1)
Nefertiti Overdrive, 25 (31)
Starship Commandos, 21 (20)
The Wall, 24

Sword’s Edge Systems
Crossing the Millers, 11 (10)
Face ‘Splosion, 17 (4)
For A Few Swords More, 18
HardCASE: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 12
Kheufer Scrolls, 10 (10)
Kiss My Axe, 16 (28)
Lawless Heaven, 13 (6)
Suffer the Witch, 3 (4)
Sword’s Edge, 33 (18)
Sword Noir, 28 (52)

Total Sales to Date
Albenistan
Albenistan: Election Day (Modern Dispatch 113), 48
Khorforjan Gambit, 130
Qalashar Device, 144
Raid On Ashkashem, 190

Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms, 78
For Simple Coin, 11
Gifts of the Elder Gods, 46

Covert Forces
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section, 120
Covert Forces, 100
Covert Forces Redux, 195
In Her Majesty’s Service, 166

Other
The Boltcutter, 5
Centurion, 235
Centurion: Hispania Ulterior Motive, 4
Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit, 47
Daughter of the Sun: A Nefertiti Overdrive Adventure, 4
HeadCrushers, 5
Judged: A Nefertiti Overdrive Adventure, 19
Line Zero, 41
Nefertiti Overdrive, 169
Starship Commandos, 65
The Wall, 24

Sword’s Edge System
Crossing the Millers, 177
Face ‘Splosion: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 21
For A Few Swords More: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 18
HardCASE: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 12
Kheufer Scrolls, 223
Kiss My Axe, 273
Lawless Heaven: A Sword’s Edge Adventure, 19
Suffer the Witch, 104
Sword’s Edge, 51
Sword Noir, 767

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HeadCrushers in the Wild

Sometimes you just need to crush a head to show you mean business. Kick down that door, kick butt, don’t bother taking names, that’s what I’m talking about. When you find out you are in over your head, distract, dodge, defend, and then get the hell out. Fast swords, fast brains, and fast mouths – that’s what you need.

Head Crushers a simple RPG about fantasy action-adventure, is now available through Drive Thru RPG. It’s a stripped down, easy to play game for straight-ahead fantasy adventures. The philosophy is customizable characters but minimal rules. There might be some ambiguity, but that’s a feature, not a bug – figure out how it works best for your group, then barrel on ahead.

Below is an example character sheet to give you some idea of what you are getting into, but if you’ve played any of my games in the past, you have a good idea, but to break it down, characters in HeadCrushers are based on Qualities and dice – the former provides the description and the latter are used for resolution, called a Test. Players roll dice against the GM, and no matter how many dice are rolled, each chooses only two – one for Success and one for Effect. Even if you roll six dice, only two of them are important, but rolling more dice increases the chance that one of them will be good.

The highest result wins at Success, which means that it’s better to have a bigger die than a smaller one because they generally get the bigger numbers. Die-type is used for Effect, so the result on the die is unimportant, only it’s number of sides. So for Success, a 7 rolled on a d8 beats a 5 rolled on a d10, but for Effect, you need to go big, so a d10 is better than a d8.

You can find HeadCrushers here.

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